Washington–Retail associations and other business leaders have welcomed the U.S. government’s first-ever strategy announced this week to fight counterfeiting and intellectual property (IP) theft around the world. In addition to stepping up policing of imports, the Obama administration also sees intellectual-property rights as part of its plan to double exports over the next five years.
The report, which was released Tuesday, is part of a response Congress mandated in a law passed in October 2008 requiring a report on enforcement of intellectual property laws. It includes efforts to boost enforcement by the FBI, the State Department, the Library of Congress and many others.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates intellectual-property-intensive industries account for $5 trillion annually and employ 18 million American workers.
While much of the attention has been focused on motion picture and video piracy that costs the U.S. economy some $20.5 billion annually in lost output, other measures are aimed at curbing the rising tide of counterfeit apparel, accessories and footwear, many coming out of China.
When introducing the multipronged plan, Vice President Joe Biden said the government hope to stem the loss of billions of dollars a year generated from innovation, which he described as “perhaps our greatest export.”
Among promises the government makes in its “The National Intellectual Property Strategy” promises include:
•Aggressively crack down on the growing problem of IP theft online, by making it harder for criminals to use the Internet to distribute stolen American ideas and harm consumers
•Make the United States and its trading partners the toughest, most capable enforcers of IP laws in the world, delivering effective consequences to those stealing others’ hard work and ingenuity; and
•Protect IP rights in the U.S.A. and abroad, particularly in the handful of capitals and multilateral fora where some are constantly trying to undermine them for their own gain.
Apparel, Accessories and Footwear ‘Largest Victims’
The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) applauded the strategy on Wednesday. “The United States has long needed an aggressive, collaborative, and practical approach to combating the scourge of counterfeiting that continues to harm U.S. apparel and footwear brands competing in the global market,” commented Kevin Burke, AAFA’s president and ceo.
“America’s competitive edge is dependent upon strong intellectual property enforcement,” he continued. “With strong IP protections for U.S. apparel and footwear brands, our industry will be able to generate and sustain jobs while keeping innovation and creativity at the forefront.” The American apparel and footwear industry has been the largest victim of IP theft over the last four years, with over half of the seizures by U.S. Customs and Border Protection being footwear, fashion accessories, and apparel.
David Hirschmann, president and ceo of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center, urged the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday to “examine the White House plan and thoughtfully consider what legislative action might be necessary.”
While calling the plan a “historic and necessary” step, Hirschmann told the senators. “We also recognize that implementing it clearly presents a much greater challenge…We need to continue to build the capacity of the federal government to address the exponentially growing theft of intellectual property that threatens entire industries, hundreds of thousands of jobs and our innovation economy.”
IP Czar Cites Six Key Strategies
The strategy contains more than 30 recommendations, falling into six main categories, according to the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC) Victoria Espinel, who laid out a six leading points:
“1. We will lead by example. Specifically, we will work to ensure that we do not mistakenly purchase or use illegal products.
“2. The strategy underscores that this Administration supports transparency. That includes transparency in our development of enforcement policy, information sharing, and reporting of law enforcement activities at home and abroad.
“3. We will improve coordination and thereby increase efficiency and effectiveness of law enforcement efforts at the federal, state and local level, of personnel stationed overseas and of our international training efforts.
“4. We will work with our trading partners and within international organisations to better enforce American intellectual property rights in the global economy. In that regard, we will initiate a comprehensive review of current efforts in support of U.S. businesses that have difficulty enforcing their intellectual property rights in overseas markets, with a particular focus on China.
“5. We must secure our supply chain. To achieve this most important goal, we will take a close look at the unique problems posed by foreign-based websites and other entities that provide access to counterfeit or pirated products, and develop a coordinated and comprehensive plan to address them.
“6. Finally, we will make sure we spend your money wisely. To do that, we have, and will continue to collect and track the amount of money we spend on intellectual property enforcement per year. We will use this information to map out the most effective way to fight this theft.”
A copy of the complete report can be downloaded here.